How to drive in icy conditions without fear


The best method for staying safe when the roads are affected by treacherous icy conditions is simply not to drive in the first place, but unfortunately, this is often not an option for many households, who still need to drive frequently for work or groceries. This article will provide you with all the necessary information you need to drive on the road safely this winter.


What to prepare before you start your journey.

You should always be certain and aware of the weather conditions you’re about to face, get informed looking up your local weather and traffic reports before even thinking about dealing with difficult road conditions.

Driving in snow and icy conditions requires more preparation than the usual journey, the RSA recommends caring the following in the boot of your car, whenever traveling in heavy snow.

  • High Visibility Vest 
  • A Tow rope
  • A shovel 
  • De-icing equipment

If the conditions are very severe don’t be afraid to also pack yourself a spare pair of clothes, a warm blanket and some food and water. Also bring a pair of sunglasses as the glare from the sun can be dazzling in the winter, as well as being lower in the sky. When travelling in dangerous conditions you should always hope for the best but prepare for the worst.


Factor in additional Journey times.

It’s common knowledge that traveling in icy conditions will result in longer travel times, but you should always leave an extra 10 minutes before beginning your journey to clear your windows and mirrors of ice, de-icer spray or an ice scraper are your best tools for this. you will also need time to demist the inside of your windscreen too as it is illegal to drive without full visibility.

Now would also be a good time to check your tires, The road safety authority states that all tires should have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm to be road legal, and that they should preferably be replaced when they fall below 3mm.


Check your lights and be ready to drive in low visibility.

After you have properly prepared the vehicle, your journey can now begin, remember with snowfall comes reduced visibility, and that you must always have your headlights on. If visibility worsens you must put on your fog lights and further reduce speed and if you unfortunately find yourself in blizzard like conditions you must turn off your radio and slightly open your driver side window, this will help you better hear other road traffic.

You can continue your journey but if you begin to feel unsafe or overwhelmed at any time, you should begin to look for a place to stop your vehicle whenever it is safe to do so, being aware of your car’s visibility to other drivers, while understanding the risk that you can eventually get snowed in.

Slow and steady in icy conditions.

When driving in winter conditions remember that you should always slow down, manoeuvre more gently and leave extra distance between your vehicle and the one in front. you want to be able to see the taillights of the vehicle in front but make sure you are not close enough where you won’t be able to break safely if they stop suddenly. The braking distances on ice can be 10 times greater than regular braking distances of your vehicle.

When driving on snow use the highest gear possible to avoid wheelspin and select a low gear when driving downhill, especially when you’re coming to a bend in the road. If you begin to slow down naturally, press the brakes to warn drivers behind you to do the same.


Black ice and keeping control.

Black ice is the most dangerous hazard you can find on the road in winter.  Black ice occurs most often on ungritted country roads, where it is most often seen under trees and parallel to high walls in more sheltered and shaded locations.

Spotting black ice can be quite difficult, as black ice isn’t actually black in appearance, it mostly just looks like water. The best way of avoiding black ice on the roads is by associating every wet spot you see with being black ice, this may seem excessive but black ice is linked with so many accidents on Irish roads, as snow isn’t a requirement for the formation of black ice. Making this hazard a constant for every Irish winter.

In most road emergencies, brakes are your best friend, but not for black ice. When you reach the black ice, release the brake before making contact with your tires, If you begin to skid, turn gently towards the direction of the skid. Pump the brakes to stop going into a full-on skid if you’re going too quickly and need to brake a little. Most importantly, do not slam on the brakes; you can just make the hazard worse by doing so.


Snow and icy conditions will always present new challenges for drivers, but if you understand and are prepared for these challenges, while using the above safe driving techniques, you can also drive in these conditions without fear.

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Sean Barrett
Sean Barrett

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